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Archive for the ‘places’ Category

I was getting a ton of hits for Caroline Kennedy because of the Democratic Convention, so I was going to do a post on her. Well, one thing led to another:

Jackie O. loved New York City. She wanted to bring up her children there. From 1964 to 1994 she lived on the 15th floor of 1040 Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is on the north-east corner of Fifth Avenue and 85th Street, across the street from Central Park and a block up from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A year after her husband, President John F. Kennedy, was shot dead she moved to New York to 1040 with her two little children, John, 4, and Caroline, 7.

She moved there because it was close to her sister Lee Radziwill and because she wanted Caroline to go to school at Sacred Heart on 91st Street, one of the best girls’ schools in the city. She also knew that the Upper East Side would pretty much let her be. She went to mass at St Thomas More on 89th Street.

She bought the entire 15th floor in 1964 for $250,000 (200,000 crowns). In 1996, after she died, it was sold for $9.5 million (2 million crowns). In 2008 it sold for $19.5 million (1.5 million crowns). One of the later owners was the 33rd richest person in the world.

She filled the apartment with her books, her paintings and her art objects. She had a piano she could not play and a telescope which she used. She had no central air conditioning.

The place was friendly rather than grand. She wanted a private place for her family and friends to enjoy and feel at home in. It changed little over 30 years: “She was ageless and her style was ageless,” her designer said about the place.

Because so many of her things were sold off after her death, hundreds of people own things that were once there.

With only two floors above it, it has a wonderful view of Central Park: you can see the Reservoir, now named after her, and the 3,400-year-old Temple of Dendur, which she had helped to bring to the Met museum from Egypt. The 15th floor has a terrace where you can step outside and take in the view.

From 1996 to 2000 much of the 15th floor was rebuilt and the layout changed somewhat.

In 2006 the 15th floor had:

  • Facing Central Park:
    • master bedroom
    • library (with fireplace)
    • living room (with fireplace)
    • dining room (with fireplace)
    • terrace
  • four bedrooms in all
  • three terraces in all
  • two dressing rooms
  • a staff room
  • conservatory
  • five and a half bathrooms
  • a wine room
  • a gallery
  • a chef’s kitchen
  • a laundry room
  • a cloak room

The building went up in 1930, done in a neo-Classical style. It was designed by Rosario Candela, who did many luxury apartments in the city in the 1920s and 1930s. The roofline is pretty strange and sets it apart. The building has 17 floors and only 27 apartments.

The building has a doorman but no garage or health club.

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Jamaica, Queens

Jamaica, Queens, “the other Jamaica”, is in the south-east part of New York City, just north of the JFK airport. It is not named after the island: it was once called Jameco. This unsung corner of the city has given us Assata Shakur, Sean Bell, 50 Cent, Q-Tip, the singer Olivia, governor Mario Cuomo and others.

It is one of the three main black parts of New York City, the other two being Harlem and the part of Brooklyn centred on Bedford-Stuyvesant. Jamaica is more middle-class and less famous than the other two.

In the 1950s Jamaica was almost all white. In the 1960s blacks started moving in from the American South – and whites started to move out. In the 1980s West Indians and Latin Americans started coming. Since the late 1990s it has been Asians, especially Bangladeshis.

It is about 45 minutes east of Manhattan by train. There are some high-rise apartment buildings but it is mainly street after street of houses and shops, few with more than two floors.

Jamaica Avenue is the main street.

Hillside Avenue, a few blocks north, is the colour line: to the south Jamaica is mainly black, to the north it is mainly not.

North of Hillside and to the east is Jamaica Estates. It is white and well-to-do. To the west of it are foreign-born whites and Asians, a place where taxi drivers and hot dog sellers live. Part of the plot to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993 took place there.

Middle-class white Americans are seen mainly far to the north near St John’s University.

South Jamaica, to the south of Hillside, stands at the head of a black middle-class region that extends east into Hollis, Queens and beyond into Long Island. The blacks in Queens are richer than the whites.

Black Jamaica is more middle-class than Harlem, but it is also more violent. This was especially true in the 1980s and early 1990s when crack was at its height.

In the 1980s the great and good of the city pushed the drug trade from other parts of the city into south Jamaica. They let the drug lords shoot it out among themselves on its streets. The sound of gunfire and ambulances were a fact of life. Even walking to school could be dangerous.

Young men died in their hundreds every year. The city and the country did not care. Not, that is, till one day when a white policeman was shot dead. Then suddenly the violence was unacceptable. But after the speeches were made and the news men went away, the violence carried on. This was where 50 Cent was shot in 2000 and where Sean Bell was shot 50 times by the police in 2006.

In the 1990s it become much safer: the murder rate dropped by half, as it did in much of the city.

I lived there from 1986 to 1993. They had a wonderful library on Merrick Boulevard. I loved it. Its librarians deserve as much credit as my teachers for making me who I am.

South-east corner of Hillside Ave and 162nd St (Google Maps Street View)

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Tick Tock Diner

The Tick Tock Diner (1948- ), “the King of the New Jersey Diners”, is a northern New Jersey landmark. It is an all-night place to eat on Route 3, one of the main road that head west from New York City. Jean Shepherd used to talk about it on his old radio show. He liked the sign in front that says “Eat heavy.”

There is a Tick Tock diner in New York City too. That is a different diner.

Its busiest time is from midnight to three in the morning, when party-goers are on their way home from New York and need a bite to eat. It is just down the road from the Meadowlands, the vast swamp where Giants Stadium stands, so it gets people coming back from a game too.

Because it stands near a crossroads it gets all sorts of people. Those who want or hold public office see it as a place to go to meet “the people”. Chelsea Clinton and Governor Corzine were both there in February 2008.

I see it every day on the way home from New York. But I never ate there till this week. We went at ten on a Wednesday night (March 12th 2008).

From the road it is very noticeable, so when you walk inside it seems smaller than you expect. And nicer too. So nice that while Verizon used the outside of the diner in a 2008 television ad, it did not use the inside. (It is the ad where a man is trying to use his daughter’s pink mobile phone.)

The food is good. Much better than what you get at IHOP, Bob Evans or any of those other roadside places that serve homestyle cooking. It is not as good as, say, Red Lobster or Ruby Tuesday, but the food seems more like home cooking. It is way better than White Castle.

The servings are large, larger than you get at most places, which is nice.

Our waitress was very nice. (No, my cousin does not work there. This is not that sort of review.)

It seems like a great place to eat with friends or family, but not a place to bring a date. It is nice, but not that nice.

The cost: A big dinner for a family of four – we ordered so much food that we were all stuffed and had to take some home – cost us $72.60 (four crowns). Not bad at all for what you get.

I had the soup of the day, a Black Jack Burger, fries with gravy, a chocolate shake, tea and a brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. All great stuff. Even the tea was good.

The diner was built by Kullman, who built other diners too. It does have that Jersey diner look to it. But it has been built and rebuilt over the years. Only the clock and maybe part of the sign are from the old days.

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Monticello (1768- ) is the house of Thomas Jefferson, the third American president. It is in Virginia near Charlottesville on the top of a “little mountain” (what Monticello means in Italian). It is the house you see on the back of nickels (the American five-cent coin). What you do not see on the nickel is the wonderful view it has.

Jefferson and his friend Dabney Carr went to the top of the mountain as boys. They promised each other that they would be buried under an oak tree there (they were). Jefferson liked the place so much that he built his house there, amid the oaks.

Jefferson designed the house in 1768. From then till 1809 he, his white workers and black slaves worked on it. It seems he was always working on it. When Jefferson left for Europe in 1784 the house was more or less done, but his five years in Europe gave him new ideas. When he got back he tore down a lot of it and rebuilt it.

The house is Italian on the outside in the style of Palladio and English on the inside. The cooking was French.

Apart from the windows from Europe, the house is mostly built from materials from the mountain itself.

The estate had about 2000 hectares and 150 slaves, including Sally Hemings.

The dome, the rounded part of the roof, was not added till 1800. It is a lot more evident on the nickel than it is in real life when you are on the ground looking up at it. When you enter the house you have no idea that it is there. (I was there in 2006.)

When you walk in you come into a waiting area. Above the door is a clock that tells not only the hour and minute but also the day of the week. While you wait you can look at the bones of monstrous creatures that once lived there in a lost age.

His book room held thousands of books. Most of the books you see are copies of the books it once had. The originals were sold off long ago to help settle Jefferson’s debts. A few books, though, are left: the Don Quixote that he learned Spanish from, his Ariosto, Virgil, Plutarch and some others. He has a lot of law books and books in French.

Next to his library is his office and next to that his bed, which seems too short (as do others from that period).

There is an eight-sided room where James Madison and his wife often slept. The bed is set in the wall in the French style of the time.

The house is full of paintings, clocks, fireplaces and windows – but not many curtains! On the wall of his living room are paintings of his three heroes: Newton, Bacon and Locke.

The steps going up to the second floor are very narrow – to save space in the house. They let people see the second floor only two nights a week. You have to sign up on the Internet for it.

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